The Ups and Downs of Supplementing with Licorice Root

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Whether you like the taste of licorice root or not, you might have recently started to ask yourself whether it could be useful for your workout routine.

There are countless supplements out there on the market today. There’s so many in fact that the people subscribing to my Marc Dressen online fitness trainer sessions often have questions to ask about which substances will help them to get their most out of their workout.

Licorice root is more than just a treat for some people; it’s also a well-known element in traditional Chinese medicine. Licorice root is also an adjuvant in the medicinal world. This means that it’s frequently added to food and other supplements to increase the effects of specific components. In its own right, many people believe that licorice root can treat respiratory, cardiovascular, and endocrine disorders.

The question is, what’s the truth about licorice root?

Is it a great way to step up your fitness game, or just another false prophet?

By the time you’ve finished reading this article, you’ll know everything there is to know about the benefits, and drawbacks of taking licorice root.

Why Do People Take Licorice Root Anyway?

When people talk about licorice, they’re usually referring to the over-processed sugary substance you can find in sweet aisles. However, the truth is that licorice comes from the root of two plants. The first is the Glycyrrhiza Glabra – the plant that gives licorice it’s sweet taste. Some scientists suggest that the substance in this plant is 50 times sweeter than sugar.

The other plant that gives us licorice is Glycyrrhiza, which isn’t quite as sweet as its counterpart. The sweet taste of the Glabra is what led it to become a popular flavoring for candy, and something that we still use throughout the world today.

The question is, why do people bother using licorice root for their workouts?

It all comes down to Glycyrrhizin – the sweet stuff in licorice root. About 1.5% of the licorice root is made of this substance, and when you eat it, you get a molecule called glycyrrhizic acid. After GA, your licorice root also gives you glabridin, and liquiritigenin, which are two additional molecules used to explain the advantages of licorice. Glabridin is a potent antioxidant, while Liquiritigenin is another antioxidant that’s easy to absorb into the bloodstream.

When it comes down to it, licorice has a ton of unique molecules within it. This explains why so many people with the goal of getting healthier choose to use it. It seems that when you get to the science of licorice, it’s more than just a sugary candy-based option – it’s a powerful biological substance. Of course, what you want to know, is how it’s going to improve your fitness routine.

Some of the Benefits of Licorice Root

The most obvious benefit that licorice root has to offer comes from its antioxidant capabilities. A high presence of numerous antioxidants like Glabridin is one of the biggest selling points for the plant, as they get plenty of scientific study.

Two studies, including one double-blind and one non-blind, suggest that supplementation with licorice root can help to reduce the number of oxidized lipoproteins in the blood. Since oxidized lipoproteins contribute to the problem of atherosclerosis, this can be seen as a heart-healthy issue. At the same time, licorice has also had studies conducted to explore its fat-burning potential.

As a metastatic substance, it seems to have a few critical properties, including the ability to promote mitochondrial uncoupling. Some research also suggests that it can help to improve the beta-adrenergic signaling in your body – similar to ephedrine. These properties explain why GA has been used to reduce belly fat by a lot of fitness enthusiasts. Of course, there’s always a chance that flavonoids could be playing a role here. They help to stave off obesity in animal studies.

What are the Side Effects of Licorice Root?

Before you rush off to stock up on licorice root, it’s important to note that not all of the results of the studies into this substance are good. Taking this substance could leave you with some pretty severe side effects. Fortunately, though they will be avoidable most of the time.

The molecule glycyrrhizin, which we mentioned earlier, provides GA throughout the body. However,  it also inhibits an vital enzyme called 11B-HSD. These results are more potent in people with hypertension, and the result is an increased rate of cortisol in your body. Cortisol, if you’re not sure – is the substance responsible for stress.

The standard licorice root you might eat as an afternoon snack doesn’t  have enough GA in it to influence your hormone production. However, when you start adding to the mix with large amounts of supplement, you could have a severe problem. The glycrrhetinic acid in licorice root is very effective at increasing cortisol activity. It also decreases your testosterone levels.

While a higher rate of cortisol might help you to wake up faster in the morning, it’s not the right way to get the best results on your fitness routine. When you take the loss of testosterone into account, it could be damaging your workout.

Finishing Thoughts on Licorice Root Supplements

Ultimately, the licorice that you eat as candy and the stuff you take as a supplement are two very different things. The benefits of licorice are significant. It’s versatile, healthy, and brimming with potential.

Of course, it’s important to remember that there are downsides to licorice root too. This is particularly crucial when you consider the presence of GA – one of the few compounds in the world known for reducing testosterone. Combine your loss of testosterone with the issues regarding cortisol, and you’ve got one serious problem.

I’d recommend staying away from licorice root for your supplementation. There are better options out there.

Marc Dressen
Personal Trainer London

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